When you were a teenager, maybe you kept a diary filled with your deepest thoughts, feelings, and fears. It’s easy to think of journaling as something that belongs to the past, but it doesn’t have to be that way. No matter your age, a journal is a safe space where you can express your thoughts and emotions, free from judgment or scrutiny. It can even help improve your mental health.
The links between journaling and mental health
If you struggle with anxiety, expressing yourself in writing can help you worry less about stressful tasks. Keeping a journal allows you to express overwhelming emotions and observe your thought patterns, rather than simply reacting to them. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the benefits of journaling include:
- Giving you a way to track causes of stress or symptoms associated with mental illness. You can recognize repeating triggers and find ways to reduce their impact on you.
- Helping you prioritize your problems, concerns, and fears. This can make it easier to figure out what is upsetting you most and focus your attention accordingly.
- Providing a space for you to work through negative thoughts and behaviors. Crucially, this is a place where you don’t have to worry about what others might think.
If you’re new to journaling, the concept may seem daunting. Here are three tips to help you get started today.
Choose a journaling method that works for you
Most importantly, pick what feels right. If the traditional pen-and-paper method gets your ideas flowing, then use it. There are however two main advantages to using a note-taking app like Evernote. First, Evernote allows you to write whenever you feel inspired because it’s always with you. It lives on your phone, computer, or any other device, making it easier to write in your journal on a regular basis.
Evernote can also help you gain more insights from your journal. Rather than reading your journal entries chronologically or opening to a page at random, you can use search or tags to view your entries by keywords. This lets you see each time you mentioned a certain idea or feeling, which can help you identify patterns in your thoughts and experiences.
Follow two best practices
Write often, and write in your own style. Setting aside enough time to write on a daily basis can help you keep better track of your emotional state and how it changes or develops over time. It might be tough to stick with writing every day at first, but you’ll find it gets easier the more you do it.
Also, your journal doesn’t need to abide by traditional rules, even when it comes to spelling and grammar. Write whatever needs to come out—however it needs to come out. Let your thoughts flow without evaluating them or worrying about how they’re written. You might find that taking liberties with language helps you articulate things that are otherwise hard to put into words.
Combine journaling with other healthy choices
While journaling can provide benefits for your mental health, the University of Rochester recommends you combine it with other aspects of a healthy lifestyle. In order to reduce your anxiety, stress, and any other mental health conditions, try to make time to relax or meditate every day. Exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet will also contribute to your overall well-being. Stay away from alcohol and drugs, and be sure you get enough sleep each night.
A consistent journaling practice can reduce stress, boost your mood, and help you make better sense of your thoughts. Take a few minutes each day to write down whatever comes into your head—you’ll be better able to understand your emotions in a safe, healthy way.